Charitable Immunity and Personal Injury – What You Need to Know

My son was hurt at private school and I want to make a claim against the school.

My son was injured at a basketball game and I want to sue the athletic association.

My child was injured at religious school and I want to make a claim against the school.

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

All of these cases have the same legal issues in common, that is what is the threshold of legal proofs the plaintiff needs to have against these private/Nonprofit entities. All these entities behavior is protected by the Charitable Immunities Act. (CIA)

In this case a young boy suffered a significant injury to his Achilles’ heel when a classroom door closed on his leg. The parents brought suit against the private school and the door manufacture. There are several issues in this case which are very important. They are a, what is the threshold to bring a case against an entity which is a nonprofit/religious/charitable type of operation. (You could also use the same evidentiary standard against nonprofit athletic association, after school programs, in-house sports programs and travel team programs.) Examples are, private schools, religious schools, nonprofits and other business entities that are set up to aid the public and not make money. The other issue in this case is the evidential requirements of The expert opinion use by the family bringing the lawsuit.

In order to be successful in a claim against these type of business entities you have to prove that the operators acted in a “gross negligence “manner. This is a substantially higher threshold to prove than regular negligence. This case discusses the standard of care and evidentiary proves needed to be successful against these entities. Regular negligence is not enough, and merely proving that a duty was violated which cause injury will not be enough to win your case. You need to prove that there was a clear danger and the owners/managers of the nonprofit operation ignored this known danger which was openly obvious to them, and they did nothing. This appellate panel states:

The CIA states a charitable or educational organization shall not “be liable to respond in damages to any person who shall suffer damage from the negligence of any agent or servant of such [organization], where such person is a beneficiary, to whatever degree, of the works of such nonprofit [organization].” N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7(a). The CIA also provides that immunity is not available for gross negligence or willful conduct. N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7(c)(1). 

Gross negligence is defined as “an act or omission, which is more than ordinary negligence, but less than willful or intentional misconduct. [It] refers to a person’s conduct where an act or failure to act creates an unreasonable risk of harm to another because of the person’s failure to exercise slight care or diligence.” Steinberg v. Sahara Sam’s Oasis, LLC, 226 N.J. 344, 364 (2016) (quoting Model Jury Charge (Civil), 5.12, “Gross Negligence” (2009)). “Whereas negligence is ‘the failure to exercise ordinary or reasonable care’ that leads to a natural and probable injury, gross negligence is ‘the failure to exercise slight care or diligence.'”

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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